Photo by Andy Graziano
Barclays Center welcomed the New York Islanders training camp opener today as the beautiful complex opened their doors to not only the team but the media as well. And what a show they carried out.
As the team made their way from the Long Island rail road and walked Atlantic Avenue towards the arena, New Jersey Nets and Barclays Center CEO Brett Yomark was on hand front and center for a tremendous photo-op. Bruce Ratner and Yomark then greeted the Islanders and media contingent to a well designed and uplifting speech to set the tone of the day.
"Look at this place, it’s beautiful! We look forward to raising Stanley Cup banners to the rafters here at Barclays Center -RatnerWelcome to your new home. We hope you enjoy it as much as we enjoy having you here -Yomark"
As the team dispersed to the gymnasium to get in some stretching and shoot some baskets prior to the official opening of camp, the media was led on a whirlwind tour of this remarkable complex. They were clearly aware of the rumors and discontent flying around the social media world about how ready this facility would be for hockey. In the official media presser, it answered a lot and alleviated more….
- Capacity for hockey has officially been announced at 15,813 (Almost 800-900 more than rumored and only slightly below current Coliseum capacity)
- Hospitality area will be located on the event level of the West End behind and to the sides of the goal. Fans in the hospitality area can see the players enter and leave the ice. (Think current Rangers set up)
- The HD video scoreboard is one of the largest and most technologically advanced at any arena in the world
- Limited view seating is located in certain sections of the West End of the arena
- At every event, LIRR train times are posted on HDTVs located throughout the Barclays Center.
- For all evening games, LIRR train service from Atlantic Terminal to Jamaica Terminal will be extended past midnight.
- The Barclays Center app will use the Cisco Stadium Vision mobile video feed during the Islanders preseason game against the Devils on September 21.
- The four championship banners will be hung for the September 21 game and retired jerseys will hang when the Islanders permanently move to Barclays Center.
Here are some of the views from today to either quell or heighten fans mood about the setup….
Tempo Rules The Day
As we return to the more relevant news, that being the play on the ice, it was mildly surprising to see such an up-tempo pace for the very first session of camp. Head coach Jack Capuano along with assistants Brent Thompson and Doug Weight had the forwards and defensemen really skating hard in various drills which ultimately culminated in an entertaining show of 1v1 and 2v1 head to head competitions.
Goaltending coach Mike Dunham spent the entire hour with hopeful backup Kevin Poulin, who looked sharp throughout and was someone I was especially keying on. Embroiled in a tough competition with Anders Nilsson, Kevin spoke to Eyes after the session about his thoughts on not only his first ‘true’ professional camp but his experience garnered in the playoffs last year.
"I’m looking forward to playing a lot of games this year and my first option is to be on the Island for the entire season. I’ve played many games in Bridgeport and it was the best experience I have had."
Kevin then went onto speak of his playoff experience last season, coming into relieve Evgeni Nabokov.
"It’s a great experience. Any playoff experience is a great chance. I didn’t expect to play but was fortunate enough to be put in a situation where I could show what I could do. I felt a little nervous the first couple of minutes, really stressed but after the first couple of saves, I felt a lot more comfortable and in a zone. As a backup goaltender, you have to be ready at all times to play whenever the team needs you."
Michael Grabner, who flashed his tremendous speed today as expected, also spoke of how the team is looking ahead after the experience of playing in the post-season.
"Everyone knows now what it takes to get into the playoffs and everyone this season is extra hungry to get back. But it’s a long grind and we have to remember what it took to get there in the first place."
Finally, Matt Martin spent a little time with Eyes discussing the Barclays Center and gave us the quote of the day by far.
"We don’t dwell on it too much but it certainly is nice to have a special room built just for us and give us all the tools we need to get the right recovery and training. It’s a fantastic building that has become the largest grossing venue in the United States over the last year."
My question to Matt to end the interview was ‘I noticed today that your skating and stride was much more smooth and powerful than in years past. Is that something you specifically worked on this off-season to improve?’
"Yeah, I mean it’s something I have been working on every year since they told me I was a terrible skater at 17. We have great skating coaches who help me to get better. Sometimes they will show me a clip from my first camp to see the improvement. I will continue to work on it every day and throughout my entire career."
To round out what turned out to be an exciting day for the Islanders and Barclays Center, Capuano, general manager Garth Snow and owner Charles Wang took to the podium for a press conference discussing many important factors concerning the facility and the team.
Wang was very engaged and extremely excited throughout, showing a boyish enthusiasm for the events that ruled the day. After having lunch with the players from the morning session, he offered his thoughts and answered questions about the facility.
"I am happy with the number of seats currently and as far as the limited view sections, that is something that Mr.Yomark and his team will get figured out.I am open to playing some regular season games next year but we will wait and see what happens.As great as last season was, let’s not pretend everything is daisies. If life was just a upwards line, how great would that be? But it’s not, there will be bumps in the road but we have the leadership in Garth and Jack to overcome those sucessfully."
To close out the Q&A session, Capuano offered some thoughts on the lineup going forward into camp and the exhibition season.
"The forwards are pretty much what you see. The changes will be occurring on the back-end. There are spots to be won and the play on the ice will dictate the decision-making. There are a lot of teams that got better this off-season with personnel changes, either in the front office or on the roster, and we have to make sure we train hard from day one to be competitive."
Overall, a fantastic day at Barclays Center for the media, Mr.Wang and the entire Islanders organization. Like it or not, this team is raging full steam ahead not only in the National Hockey League standings but to a new home as well. And it will be glorious on both fronts I suspect.